The 60’s: Chapter 15

Soft Landing

In early March I set up housekeeping on the back end of Kay and Paul’s property.

I had pitched my army surplus tent on the far corner of the land. It was quite a lovely setting. I was backed up to the redwood forest that also contained small smatterings of bay laurels and scrub pines. The heady sharp scent of the bay trees, brought the fragrance of nature’s incense into my tent, my clothes and my often naked body. The scents were peppery and pervasive.

The four months in my army green shelter were the first time I had actually been able to settle down and plant my tender, tenuous roots. I had temporarily escaped, the shifting sands, that had defined my recent living situations.

I was finally in a quiet place. I had not understood how badly I needed the solidity, serenity and certainty, that comes from staying in one locality. In time, my mind and thoughts became slow and easy to see. I felt settled, and real.

When I purchased my tent, I also picked up a few other things at the surplus store. A small, but very workable, two burner kerosene cook stove. I also purchased three olive green woolen blankets that were almost new. I also acquired two kerosene lanterns and some very cute but practical cooking accouterments. I had a friend help me drag an old twin bed mattress out to the tent.

I went to a store in town and found some sheets, bath towels. At Goodwill I purchased 2 plates, a couple of cups and silverware. I found a small snow globe that had a little figure of Santa in it. When I shook it, that drizzly, drazzly snow, would fly around inside the globe and would, in time, slowly filter down to layer the scene inside.

Sometimes in the yellow kerosene light of my tent I would gently shake and roll that ball just to watch the snowy, plastic flakes, create their own little, localized, blizzard.

The nights there, were enveloped by the sounds of crickets, owls and bugs. Leaves and branches, would rub against each other creating a night time concert in which I had front row, stage center seating there in mother nature's Grand Old Opera House.

It took about a week to get set up. I got this massive sheet of plastic for the dirt floor. I built a small altar with two boxes and a board which I covered with some slippery red and teal silk scarves. I had my little snow globe, a candle in an old sugar bowl, a flower arrangement, which I freshened daily, with the local flora. I also placed a small Buddha statue, an incense burner, and a fresh black and white tube of Chapstick, which sat in a small curved wooden bowl.

That little altar represented something that was truly mine. Whenever someone would come to visit, they would sit on my old twin bed mattress and gaze at the candlelit altar. It’s kind of funny that they never touched this small sacred space.

To this day, I continue the tradition of having, a small altar to create that same spiritual zone in my bedroom. In fact, I am seeing that little altar from the side of my eye, it's small glowing lotus lamp that sits among, my many Buddhas and small deity pictures. It’s sits there, as it always has, bringing its lightness and peace into the room where I sleep.

I am writing this story on a Spring evening in the Appalachians that are far, far away from those warm primavera nights in California.

But in this moment I am there, by the fire and listening to the night bugs sing along with the bodies of branches making their sweet slow love to each other, somewhere out there in the darkness.

Paul had very kindly dug me a small fire ring which I surrounded with rocks and old broken fire bricks. Every evening I would build a diminutive squaw fire which I would poke and fiddle with using a special a tree branch I had selected for that very purpose. I would sit on a tree stump and poke the fire watching the slow moving, brilliant flickers of the bright ashes that would flare and float, and finally disappear, into the dark arms embrace of the velvety night.

I drank in the peace of that short time, there in my little dot of serenity.

And the world outside, went raging on.

April was coming, and my fragile peace would be shattered and scattered in the cutting winds of war and murder.

Chapter 16: 4/5/68